Bring Back “Scared Straight!” Otherwise…is it already too late?


Cover of "Scared Straight!"
Cover of Scared Straight!

As a result of the absence of the continued documentary, “Scared Straight,” directed by Arnold Shapiro in 1978, the world’s children are in a devastated mess.  “Scared Straight” was a documentary in which pompous teenage juvenile delinquents were confronted with inmates at Rahway State Prison, in an effort to make them correct their criminal ways.  The documentary had a great impact on whoever watched the show at that time; however, the documentary may not have affected many of those coerced into heinous acts by gang members. 

     In the late ’70s, gang activity started and grew as drug activity grew.  Starting with the ’70s, never was there a mention of hate crimes (based on one’s sexual orientation).  Though there are people who speak freely about the incidents now, there was either no documentation of such crimes then or just very little.  The ’80s, and the ’90s saw black-on-black crime on the rise.  Again, not related to hate crimes (gang-related crimes did not compute).  But as the focus was taken off  black-on-black crime, the start of the 21st century wa about to see a different kind of crime:  Hate.  Hate based on sexual orientation.  Although there was attention given to sexual orientation discrimination at Stonewall, in 1998, the media was about to take on a whole different view of discrimination.  It all started with the death of Matthew Shepard.  Matthew Shepard was a 21 year-old student at the University of Wyoming was who tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998.  Shepard’s murder brought national and international attention because his attackers admitted that he was targeted because he was homosexual.  Although Shepard’s crime was not considered bullying, it is believed that this case opened the door to bullying.  What opened the door to the lack of fear towards bullying is the lack of force from our judicial system.  As “gay” or “homosexual” has been and will continue to be a deformity that the heterosexual environment does fully “understand,” our judicial system makes it almost necessary for those who are not the “same” to be targeted – thus, punishment needs to be given if only there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that there was in fact a “hate crime.”  Why wouldn’t any bully scoff at the law?  This should make one wonder who the bigger bully is:  the school bully, the parent-bully, or our judicial system.

     It appears that crime is being targeted for easier prey.  Race and nationalities still play a very strong role in hate crimes but the easier prey seems to be the children of the world.  When more adults are remaining on the “Down Low,” and then there are those who are being outed as being gay, it is the “different” children who are bearing the brunt of adult dishonesty. 

     Are our priorities in the right place?  When the United States should be focused on our children and our own issues, the media shifts our attention to the trapped Chilean miners.  And, whatever bullying-hate crime cases that are pending for prosecution, the media chooses not to continue to give light to those issues.  If the Media were to be more open and tolerant towards homosexuality, would people then stop saying that they don’t know enough about gay people?  Would the courts change their rulings on same sex orientation?  Probably so. 

     Maybe members of the media should have to sit through a “Scared Straight” session.  A bully is a bully.  And the Media is actually bullying children by telling them that they should change to be straight.  That being straight is definitely more acceptable – unless you’re a bona-fide celebrity.  But then, when something goes wrong with a gay celebrity, the fact that they are gay becomes the main issue.  Dr. Phil wants to add his advice for bullying – but his forum is designed only for married and troubled adults.  Children don’t watch his show.  With shows like Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, and Phineas and Ferb, young children should be able to receive pertinent messages about life.  So often, it is the parents who want to restrict what children see on television.  Many times, the things that can save a child’s life are the main things that parents deny them of.  When will we let our children grow up and when will this world grow up and realize that everybody’s life means something.  If “Scared Straight” worked in the past, why can’t it work today?  The media can tell you why.  As movies and TV shows depicting gay people are shunned from public attention, why else would there be intolerance towards gays in the real world?  The TV show, Will and Grace, should have worked for the viewing pubic, but it may have been the flamboyantly gay character, Jack, that was a turn off for many viewers.  Is there a true depiction of a gay male or woman?  There has to be, somewhere.  Maybe, if someone was to create a new “Scared Straight,” some buff, hardened criminals might emerge…a fear so many parents, brothers, sisters, and clergymen dread.

     Let’s choose Life.

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